by Acharya Ratnananda (from The Speaking Tree, June 16, The Times of India)
Once a proud but benevolent king sent for his prime minister and said, “All of us have some definite work or assignment to perform. A king rules, a soldier fights, a trader trades, a teacher teaches and a preacher preaches, though as individuals they do other things also. Then what is the primary function of the Creator? Can you answer my question?”
The minister was puzzled. No one knew, and no book ever explained what God’s work was. After some thought, he said, “I, too, have often wondered about this like you. But my duty here is to advise and assist you on worldly affairs. This involves spiritual matters and the right person to answer you is our bishop.”
When the king repeated his question to the bishop, the bishop asked for a week’s time to reply. At the end of the week, the bishop was sitting under a tree on the outskirts of the town, thinking whether to face the king’s wrath the next morning, or to run away from the kingdom.
A shepherd boy who was passing by enquired about the cause for his worry. The bishop brushed him aside, saying he was deeply worried about a spiritual matter. The boy was quite insistent, and so the bishop related his trouble, without any hope of solution or solace from the boy.
“My dear master,” said the boy, “is that all that worries you so much? Please go in peace to the king. Tell him that the shepherd boy knows the answer.”
The surprised bishop begged the boy to give him the answer, but the boy preferred to meet the king in person. So the bishop went home, and the next morning he was at the court when the king eagerly asked for a reply.
“My dear king!” said the bishop, “i need not have taken so much time or trouble to give you a reply. However, i would request you to call for my shepherd boy who will give you a satisfactory answer.”
The surprised king immediately sent for the boy, who promptly presented himself before the king. His appearance was repulsive to everyone, but the court awaited his words with interest.
“You, shepherd boy,” said the king, “do you know the answer to my question which even learned scholars are not aware of?”
The boy paused for a while and said, “My dear sir, before i answer your query, may i request that proper protocol is observed. You are a student, as far as this question is concerned, since you want to learn. I am a master as i am to give you the knowledge. Normally the master occupies a higher seat than the student.” After some hesitation the king slowly came down from his throne and let the boy sit on it. So eager was he to know the answer!
But the boy, after ascending the throne, was calmly enjoying the new-found dignity and did not speak for a while. Impatient, the king shouted at the boy, “You fellow! Where is my answer? What is God’s work?” The boy calmly replied, “Here’s the answer, to push down the haughty and to push up the humble – that is God’s work!”
This is one of the 1,50,000 stories found in the ancient puranas, which have relevance even in modern times. This story, and more can be found in Acharya Ratnananda’s book “Tales for the Young and Old”
Acharya Ratnananda (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s father) left for his heavenly abode on June 8. Vaikunth Aradhana on June 19 at the Art of Living International Centre, Bangalore. Priti Bhoj at 10 a.m. All are invited.